I still remember the month that I first watched Naruto. I was in 5th grade, I was sick, and I was sitting around on the couch, happy to be off from school(aren’t the best days off the ones where we were supposed to be busy?)
Immediately, I thought “these new cartoons are so stupid. Nothing like the old Ninja Turtles and Transformers!”
Mind you, these shows were a bit before my time, so this superficial assessment was made entirely on wanting to fit in with my older sibling’s conception of what was cool, hell I’d only watched a few old episodes of Ninja Turtles on a VHS lolol. But in that young, ignorant, naive way, I emulated what I thought OTHER people thought was cool, still figuring myself out.
It was like when you want to hate something and try to talk yourself out of it just to prove a point as you sit there enjoying it. You know! “Hey you’ll love this food so try it!” “NO, I HATE THAT STUFF” “please try it!” “FINE.” *munch munch munch* “See I told you I hate it!” *munch munch munch*
Lol, so after that bout of cognitive dissonance, I just allowed myself to be hype.
I had already seen Berserk and Evangelion and DBZ without the notion that this was a SPECIES of entertainment…
It was only now that I learned there were shows made in Japan, hell, I remember being BLOWN AWAY when I found out Naruto was originally voiced in Japanese and had aired in Japan YEEEEEARS before getting to America…
Naruto introduced me to the tropes, filler, seasons, Japan, sub and dub, etc etc.
It popped my little anime bubble.
Because of that, I have a special place in my heart for this show. I even bought the first two dvds as a kid, planning to buy them all(which holy crap, with only 4 episodes a DVD and like $20 a pop…. LOL that was gonna be an expensive hobby)
Anyway, it also taught me that even within the same show, not all episodes or arcs are equal.
Which has been a point of contention for me since. Half-baked story arcs need not apply.
I remember never getting the same high after the Chunin exams and Sauske being stolen, and when there was that attack on the village. Everything else, except anything involving the romance between Naruto and Hinata(ohhh to be young again with juvenile romantic angst! NARUTO YOU DENSE BASTARD CAN’T YOU SEE SAKURA DOESN’T DESERVE YOU?! HINATA IS PRACTICALLY THROWING HERSELF AT YOU!), was a waste of time! Just so dull!
Which brings up the most significant difference between “My Hero Academia” and “Naruto”.
Well at least the difference SO FAR… I am 52 episodes in and even the slightly “filler” episodes offer up character development and good times, certainly a cut above.
However, My Hero Academia has some almost SHAMELESS parallels with Naruto. But that isn’t a problem because it’s the GOOD stuff. And the twists are enough to make it it’s own thing. It also deviates from Naruto where it could have followed in similar foot steps, but ends up being all the more interesting when it sets off down its own path.
All Might is Iruka/ Jiraiya
Eraser Head is Kakashi.
Even the interactions between All Might and Eraser Head towards the beginning of the show are a 90% mirror image of Naruto. Especially the scene where All Might finds out Deku got Eraser Head as an instructor who is notoriously harsh and critical. He reads about how Eraser failed a whole class… SOUND FAMILIAR?! LOL! That was the same as when Iruka found out that Kakashi had failed a class and was known for being highly critical of students.
Even when All Might confronts Eraser about being too critical, Eraser Head dismisses him as Eraser is their teacher not All Might, just like the exchange between Iruka and Kakashi all those years(decades?) ago!
The arc where the League of Criminals is trying to abduct Bakugo and I’m like “okay so it’s gonna be Sauske getting abducted all over again and then Bakugo seeks power and becomes a bad guy…” but nope. Everyone is completely confident that Bakugo would never be so weak or compromising. That was a refreshing twist from Sauske’s situation and the path to darkness. Bakugo is a hero through and through.
You have the unskilled hero who works the hardest and is bestowed power that they come to wield as their own and also the genius hero who has raw natural talents and stands in opposition to the unskilled hero, or Deku and Bakugo/ Naruto and Sauske.
At times it almost seems like a critique of what made Naruto work and what made it not work.
All Might is also very much like Jiraiya, in that Jiraiya has to train his pupil and teach them how to harness their power. Jiraiya taught Sage Mode and Rasengan which Naruto made his own, just like All Might is teaching Deku the strength of All for One while Deku is learning to make it his own. Also the nemesis fights, Pain vs Jiraiya and All Might vs All for One. All Might blends aspects and arcs of Jiraiya but doesn’t end up dying which is a REFRESHING twist of expectations. The master has been dying and leaving their student since Merlin left King Arthur, and while realistically the master must one day pass and be replaced, it doesn’t always have to happen in the same predictable fashion. I’m excited to see how All Might keeps things interesting and raises the stakes as Deku will have to protect HIM now… an opportunity the student doesn’t usually have.
But when I predict an awesome moment about to happen or hope one happens and then see Deku or All Might kick ass… I’m rewarded! My expectations are satisfied and then exceeded through a combination of well timed music and exceptionally drawn animation.
The show has that magic… it knows when to throw a bone and when to twist the expectation. To always keep you happy and excited. The show has some great touching moments and sad moments and hype moments…
Even side characters are pretty fleshed out with unique personalities(maybe elbow tape dude could use some more love).
And no TRUE filler so far… at least not how I understand and classify filler(I’m looking at you Dragon Ball Super… I don’t care about you fighting a purple haired little android girl thing!)
Naruto’s main plot arcs were fantastic and still are… especially up to that point where Sauske gets abducted. Then it gets spotty until Shippuden and that has some pitfalls too.
So I guess I’m curious to see if My Hero Academia has the legs and the gumption to not sacrifice quality for quantity.
Yea, Naruto has a lot of episodes but I’d argued as much as half or more can be completely disregarded.
If My Hero Academia ends on a high note while it still has a personality and it isn’t milked or exploited or assassinated by greed… and ends when it’s over…
That will be the difference between Naruto and My Hero.
Even Uraraka’s and Deku’s romance angle is more rewarding with better pay off than the NarutoxHinata spectacle. While it is still just a fun little side plot in the background, there is infinitely more agency in Uraraka than there was Hinata. Hinata was unfortunately as 2D and flat as a piece of paper(very few exceptions, but when she got a chance to shine wasn’t it awesome?! Pain fight and Neji fight in particular.)
Suffice to say, I’m excited to see where the show goes.
There is just something about bad ass music being PERFECTLY timed, the hero’s back against the wall, going far past your limits and what should be possible through SHEER conviction and resolve for what you believe in and what you must protect when you CAN NOT FAIL, no matter the outcome, no matter the cost to over come your limits, through blood and broken bones….
Until next time!
P.S. Vegeta’s voice actor was just an outstanding choice… Christopher Sabat… take a bow…